uklighthousetour

One crazy lady and a bizarre obsession = an ongoing tour of the best lighthouses the UK has to offer

The little lights of Argyll

Today has been spent exploring some lighthouses in Argyll. With lighthouses being on the coast I’m not so used to being surrounded by trees on my lighthouse adventures, but in Argyll it’s a completely different ball game – the trees are everywhere.

It’s because of these trees that back in 2012 when I did my original lighthouse tour I missed out on seeing Caladh Beacon, just to the north of Tighnabruaich. I remember scouring the coastline there and just not being able to see it. As a result it had remained unvisited, by me at least, ever since. Today was the day I was finally going to see it and so I set off this morning with Bob for the ferry from Gourock to Hunter’s Quay. On the way we passed Cloch lighthouse, which I quickly grabbed a few pictures of as we drove past.

Cloch lighthouse

Once on the other side it was a matter of driving tree lined roads until we reached Tighnabruaich, which actually looks quite a big place with some rather expensive-looking houses. We found a space to park and began our walk to the lighthouse. It follows a clearly marked track (or road really) which follows the coast around the Kyles of Bute.

The track to Caladh Beacon

The path went up and down a little with the occasional waterfall running to the side of and underneath the path. Occasionally it was possible to spot the lighthouse between the trees, but very rarely. It was only once you are almost at the little point on which the lighthouse sits that it really comes into view.

Caladh Beacon through the trees

As we approached we noticed a gate with “private” on it and it was clear that it wouldn’t be possible to go that way. We could see a car behind the gate and so suspected someone must be about – the perils of visiting at peak holiday time. I sent a quick message to my ever-trustworthy pal John to ask what he did when he visited previously and he said he’d skirted around the rocks to avoid the garden. Bob decided to send his drone up to check out the lie of the land and it showed that there was at least another car there and a house just behind the tower. While the drone was up he got some great shots.

Caladh Beacon by drone

Just after he’d taken the drone down a couple of locals appeared with their dogs. Bob asked them about access to the lighthouse and they said that it was private. They also said that a man who works for the owners of the house was working up on the road and to ask him if he could sort something out. We never saw the man they referred to and I left feeling a little disappointed. Bob reminded me that I’d got as close to that one as I had to Dubh Artach (although Caladh Beacon was a shorter tower so it looked further away). We decided we’ll see if we can sort out quick access by boat at some point.

Back from the walk we set off in the direction of Loch Fyne to see what kind of view it was possible to get of Sgeir an Eirionnaich. Finding the car park I had mentioned in my book was easy enough and the shoreline here certainly offered a better view of it than I’d had before. It was still fairly distant though and this is another that needs a chartered boat trip to get a better view.

Sgeir an Eirionnaich, cropped image from the drone

After our viewing of Ravenrock Point from the boat on Saturday, a bit of closer inspection was required, especially as it is so close to the road. Just to the south of Ardentinny we spotted it within the trees and found a lay-by a very short distance away. The structure looked very much as I had expected with the column with lights and radar on top and then a small hut on the landward side which was connected to the light structure only by a series of cables.

Ravenrock Point lighthouse

This sparked a bit of a debate, which I’d already been having in my head anyway, about whether or not it met my lighthouse criteria. I’ll have to think about this one, but it was a nice little tower to visit anyway. It was possible to get down onto the rocks in front of it too with a much clearer path down there than we had experienced at Cnap Point at the weekend!

The ferry back from Hunter’s Quay was certainly busy, probably due to the A83 being closed due to a land slip after all this rain, but we managed to get on and off with enough time to cram in a couple more little lighthouses. Port Glasgow beckoned. It’s been a while since I’ve been there, but they are always a joy to see with their checkered towers. My nearly three-year-old calls them the ‘oyster catcher lighthouses’ due to their colour!

The two Port Glasgow lights

The rain had well and truly set in by this point, but it didn’t matter as there were lighthouses to be seen. 🙂

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A spin up Loch Long

After the visits to Hestan island and some of the lights on the Rhins of Galloway last weekend, we had a great week in Dumfries and Galloway, including a fishing trip during which my son and I both caught our first fish. We also spent yesterday afternoon on the beach at Southerness. The location, of course, was based on there being a lighthouse there. I’m not sure I’ve spent quite so long at one lighthouse before as we did yesterday, but it was great to see it with the tide out as the previous visit had been at high tide.

Southerness lighthouse

Bob took the opportunity to play with his drone again and got some great images of the lighthouse from above.

Southerness lighthouse from above

We are now based over in Troon, staying with Bob’s mum. There have always been a few tricky lighthouses to get to in the area and so, with childcare on hand, we headed out today from Largs with Sea Clyde. We took along our little boy, Seumas, and my lighthouse friend John. Our destination for today was Loch Long, with a couple of others thrown in on the way there and back.

Regardless of how many times you see a lighthouse from land it is always different seeing it from the sea. After all they were made to be seen from the sea as John pointed out. On the way out today we sailed close to Cloch lighthouse and stopped for a while for some pictures. It looked a popular spot for fishing and it was good to see the foghorn in more detail too as the view is limited from the road. 

Cloch lighthouse

Bob had his first attempt at launching the drone from a boat and landing it back down, which scary and amusing in equal measure. After a slightly stressful first attempt at taking off he then got on fine. Landing it back on the boat was very entertaining with the drone ending up giving John’s arm a firm hug!

An aerial view of Cloch lighthouse

Our next light was Ravenrock Point on the west bank of Loch Long. Due to social distancing guidance, Sea Clyde weren’t able to take along a dinghy to help with landings so we didn’t expect to be able to land at any of the lights today. The crew, John and Dan, took a look at how deep the water was around the lighthouse, but it wasn’t possible for us to land there. However it’s not too bad as this one is next to the road anyway so can be visited by land at another time. It looks like an interesting one to get a closer view of.

Ravenrock Point lighthouse

Further up the loch we stopped at Carraig nan Ron, or Dog Rock, and the water was nice and deep around this small rock which allowed them to get the boat right up to it. It was also dry and covered in barnacles so perfect for stepping onto. Seumas stayed safely in the boat with his camera, taking pictures of us as we visited the light. It was great to be back out and stepping onto these little islands again. There wasn’t much to the lighthouse, just a white column with the light sticking up from the top, but it had a little door and the rock was big enough to get some nice angles on it.

Carraig nan Ron (Dog Rock) lighthouse

We’d sailed past Coulport where nuclear warheads are stored and loaded onto submarines. As we sailed away from Dog Rock, John pointed out that from one particular angle the rock and lighthouse looked a little like a submarine. On the way back down the loch later in the trip we noticed the rock could be accessed from the mainland at low tide – although I wouldn’t want to advise anyone to get to it that way through the huge expanse of forest!

Carraig nan Ron in Loch Long

Our final disembarkation for this trip was Cnap Point, which turned out to be rather an adventure in itself. The easiest place to land was slightly to the south of the lighthouse which meant finding a route through the foliage and undergrowth to get the the lighthouse. Seumas stayed on the boat again this time while the three of us went ashore. Once we were past the rocks we found ourselves having, as I called it, “a nice forest walk”. It’s fair to say that Argyll Forest Park is very much a forest. Bob went off ahead to find a suitable route. At one point we lost track of where he had gone and John suggested we head down towards the coast to assess the route that way rather than continuing through the forest. It turned out to be a very good move as we heard Bob shout out a few times closer to the lighthouse. It turned out he’d walked into a wasp nest on the final approach to the lighthouse and had a battle with the wasps. Avoiding the same fate, John and I took the coastal route and arrived safely at the tower. It’s the same type of structure as Dog Rock, but with even better views around it. This light is the front in a range setup and the rear light – a framework tower with brightly coloured panels – was easy enough to see from a short distance.

Cnap Point lighthouse

The return walk was slightly less dramatic, thankfully, and once back on the boat we sailed further around to see both range lights from the sea. There aren’t many lighthouses you can see surrounded by trees and Argyll is fairly unique in that way, along with the Glenelg area in the Highlands.

The Cnap Point front and rear range lights

On the way back to Largs we passed The Gantocks and The Perch beacons in the Firth of Clyde. Although they are not officially lighthouses in my book, they are still interesting structures.

The Gantocks beacon

Our final lighthouse of the day was Toward Point. I’d only seen this one once previously from the land and so it was good to see it from the sea, even if John did refer to the foghorn as looking like a car exhaust. The foghorn building itself is quite interesting. Although it lacks the majesty of many of the bigger towers, it’s still a nice one.

Toward Point lighthouse

So that was my first boat trip of the year, which is strange to say in August. Normally by now most of my boat trips would have been and gone, but it’s certainly good to be back on the sea again. 🙂

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